Julia Burke is a contributing writer for the Buffalo Spree and the Beer Editor (awesome title) for the New York Cork Report. This year I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her a little better; we’ve worked together on Buffalo Spree’s Best of awards, shared a couple drinks and even last week we co-judged the Nickel City Chef Slider Challenge at the Taste of Buffalo. While she definitely deserves to be one of our Buffalo Foodies based on her love of good food (not to mention her stellar profile of Henry Gorino), it’s her knowledge of the alcoholic world (beer, wine, cocktails) that has impressed me the most. Take a look at her articles for Buffalo Spree about Buffalo’s brewing history, the best bars for a 4 am last call and how Saranac Brewing is stepping up their game.
We sent our normal list of questions to Julia about her favorite places to eat, drink and hang out around town. Here’s what she had to say….
Right now, where are some of your favorite places to eat?
Julia: I’ve really been digging Cantina Loco for summer fare, although Bistro Europa is pretty hard to beat all year round and especially when so much great produce is in season. I also eat a lot of sushi in the summer, mostly at Kuni’s. I can’t wait for my next trip to Mike A at the Lafayette, either––the food is absolutely incredible.
Where are some of your favorite places to relax and enjoy a drink with friends?
Julia: If I’m out to drink and talk with friends, my go-to is Founding Fathers. It’s never too loud or busy to have a great conversation, and there are solid beer choices along with great pub food. Sterling Place Tavern is also great for this, with a really good beer selection and some of the best burgers in town to boot. When it comes to wine, Just Vino is head and shoulders above everywhere else in the city for vibe, selection, service, and snacks. Vera on off-nights, when it’s not too busy to converse, is a great place to take friends from out of town for a killer cocktail.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?
Julia: My idea of a good Buffalo time has three parts. Here’s the boozy tour: if they’re into wine, cocktails, and beer, I’d start with some wine tasting in Niagara, then head to the city. We could visit a couple of our local breweries, then have a great meal showing off our local farms at Bistro Europa. From there, depending on the night, we’d go to Blue Monk for a combination of crazy Belgian beer, or head to Vera for a cocktail.
For more of a city exploration, I’d take guests on a bike trip through the city, stopping by at least one Wright property, Delaware Park, Allentown, the waterfront, and through downtown. Lunch is wings at Gabriel’s Gate and a pitcher of their house beer. Dinner is German fare at Ulrich’s Tavern or Lagerhaus 95. We’ll bike enough to earn it.
For guests more interested in our history, architecture, and theatre, a day tour could include the Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural Site, the Darwin Martin House, and a walk through Delaware Park or the Botanical Gardens, followed by dinner at Rue Franklin (I’ve never been; it would be a great excuse!) or Tempo and a show at one of the theaters or a concert at Kleinhan’s.
I would end all three of these excursions with drinks at DBGB’s, my favorite all-around bar.
What are some food memories you have from your childhood?
Julia: I was always in the kitchen as a child. My mom and I cooked together just about every day, so I got pretty comfortable with it; we baked a lot, made fruit things, and I helped with dinners. I remember getting a cookbook from my Grandma, also an avid chef, and deciding I wanted to make beef stroganoff for the family for dinner when I was like 8. I think the meat was a little tough.
What started your love of wine/beer?
Julia: I got into beer when I was a freshman (err… 21-year-old) in college in Portland, Oregon; I’d been drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon all the time and one day I went to Bridgeport Ale House and had my first flight of craft beer. The contrast blew my mind, and I started trying more microbrews. After college, I wandered into a local winery on my first wine tasting excursion, and they offered me a job in the tasting room. I started showing up every chance I could, and before I knew it I was as much of a wine geek as a beer geek.
What would you like to see more of in Buffalo’s culinary/drinking scene?
Julia: I’d love to see a great fishmonger in town, for starters; nothing beats some smoked trout or wild salmon with some pinot noir or a pilsener for me. I know the Niagara wineries are experimenting with different grapes varieties, and I’d love to see more wineries trying Chenin Blanc, one of my favorite white grapes. I humbly request a Berliner-Weiss from one of the local breweries (Rudy, I’m looking at you). I would love to see more choices for cuisine reflecting our city’s Latino population. And finally, I’m thrilled with the food truck increase because I have a special place in my heart for street food. I love cities where you can get a variety of middle-of-the-night eats while walking around, and I’d love to see Buffalo develop that.
A big thank you goes out to Julia for taking some time to answer our questions, she’s busy writing for Buffalo Spree, the New York Cork Report, Atheist Hobos (not about beer/food per se, but still entertaining) and I’m sure I’m missing other publications. If you’d like to follow along with her new articles or drinking adventures, follow her on twitter at @nywinewench.